Bike San Diego – Working to be World Class

Reposted from the S&G Endeavors Blog.

Editor’s Note: The title is not deceiving. One of our collaborative strategic planning clients, Bike San Diego (BikeSD), is challenging themselves to work more collaboratively as an organization, and with other partners, to bring a world-class cycling experience to San Diego, California. Armed with a strong public presence through their blog, advocacy wins, outstanding executive director, and skillful board members and stakeholders, they have positioned themselves to be one of the top cities for cycling in the world by 2020. It was so exciting to work with BikeSD and their stakeholders to facilitate a conversation setting the stage for the future of the organization and for cycling in San Diego.

The below blog post, written by Sam Ollinger (executive director of BikeSD), is the first in a series of three posts that tells the BikeSD story.

First, Sam helps us understand what spawned the creation of BikeSD and how they experience significant growth and legitimacy in their first years, urging them to come together as leaders to think about what was next for the organization and its mission. The second post takes an inside look at their strategic retreat facilitated by S & G in March 2015, specifically highlighting feedback from participants and the process used. In the final post, we feature the future of the organization as we take a look at their launched strategic action plan and some of the current activities they are doing during implementation.

We encourage you to check out all of these posts and to think about how such work might help your leadership team, as you think about what’s next for your own organization in 2016 and beyond.

The Story of BikeSD

by Sam Ollinger

A Labor of Love

In early 2009, three strangers met on a bicycle ride and began talking about the lack of a cohesive gathering space to talk about bicycling issues. These strangers (Will Karstens, Thom Bahde and me, Samantha Ollinger) went on to found – a blog that would serve as a single source of news about bicycling in San Diego. Little did I know that BikeSD the blog would eventually turn into one of San Diego’s largest independent member based advocacy organizations.

Screenshot from 2015-10-19 09:23:41
Will Karstens in 2009 talking with the press about the dangerous conditions that exist on Jamacha Boulevard.

Karstens, Bahde, and I wrote on for nearly two and a half years about all bicycling issues: how bicycling was portrayed in local media, the breathtaking beauty one would witness on an early morning ride, the sorts of bike infrastructure that was (or not) being implemented in the city, and more. Slowly the blog became a credible source of information in the San Diego bicycling community. Many strangers assumed that the individuals behind the website were part of a credible organization and none of us bothered to correct that misperception, but instead we embraced it and rose up to become advocates. We appeared in local media, spoke up against dangerous road conditions and told stories of San Diego’s victims of road violence. It seemed that people were hungry for our blog’s information thus creating “a labor of love” for the three of us.

The Birth of the Organization
After Karstens and Bahde both moved away from San Diego, I was unsure about what to do with the blog. In 2012 – two friends, fellow riding companions and occasional blog contributors spoke about converting the blog into a professionalized non-profit advocacy organization. I had no big vision beyond keeping an organization running in an all-volunteer capacity. And with encouragement from a dozen or so close confidants, friends and bike advocates – I decided to commit and steer BikeSD from a blog into a non-profit organization.

2010 San Diego Reader Cover Story on the San Diego Bicycle Scene. Image from the ReaderBack in May 2012 when our attorneys filed our incorporation paperwork, I had no idea what I had committed to. My assumption going into this was that I’d show up to a handful of meetings every month and make a case that would be along the lines of “don’t forget about us bicycle riders!” In addition to having to master the micro environment of this type of organization and my own leadership growth; I also had to understand and absorb the dynamics of advocacy. But while I remained the visible head of the organization, what the public couldn’t see were the many, many volunteers and advisors and mentors who guided every step of BikeSD’s and my journey.

Seen over SR-94 in 2011

A year after we launched, I went after every single low-hanging fruit and some far reaching ones too. We got political support for the issue and made bicycling a discussion in the mayoral race, became a city that adopted progressive design guidelines on transforming our streets (NACTO), implemented road diets, and more. Not knowing much about the dynamics of advocacy I approached the issue with a simple idea: what happens if I try and give this my best shot? Advocacy is an imperfect art. It requires dedicated, sustained effort and nerves of steel. Doing this work has been one of the most challenging, most difficult, most gut-wrenching endeavours I have ever attempted. But the work has to be done. Not just for the obvious environmental reasons but simply because bicycling makes our cities better places to live, work, and play.

Bike San Diego was founded to advocate for safe streets and ensure that women were represented in all tiers of our work: leadership and in programmatic and advocacy outcomes.

A Professional Organization
Leading the emergence of BikeSD opened my eyes to a huge hole in our the organization’s advocacy approach – in order to win and attain changes on the ground, we as an organization had to grow and become professionalized. The status quo embedded within our societal culture and our national resistance needed to change

In the spring of 2014, we knew that BikeSD couldn’t sustain itself on the sheer passion and gumption of its many volunteers. We had to become a professionalized organization and begin to incorporate the broader San Diego community into our work. If we were to be successful in meeting our mission we needed to begin the process of professionalizing our organization. We began the process by going through a branding and marketing makeover, creating a business plan, hiring our first staffer and beginning work on our first five year strategic framework. It was time for me to collaborate with my board to set the governance and future direction of the organization.
Are you curious how we brought the leadership together around a common vision and a rapid-paced strategic planning process that resulted in action? Stay tuned to post 2 in this series.

Today: Mayor Faulconer Forgoing Vote on $200 Billion Regional Transportation Plan

kfAs Voice of San Diego reports,

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has punted an opportunity to vote on $200 billion in spending on an issue central to his legacy.

That's right, with a $200 billion dollar plan on the table where our city has a 40% stake in - our own mayor has opted to not bother with a vote. He is sending his alternate, Councilmember Zapf who will be voting to support the plan. Yes, despite the plan proposing to implement over 1,700 additional miles of freeways, the mayor still seems to think this is a great plan. Never mind the "Transit First" resolution that the city of San Diego Council passed in 2011 that the plan is failing to implement.

If you read SANDAG staff responses to various organization's requests to prioritize bicycling and walking or implement "transit first" (prior to freeways), the responses repeat one line over and over: that SANDAG does not have land use authority and thus the Regional Transportation Plan cannot dictate land use - or what can be done with land. That is true, SANDAG as a regional planning agency does not have land use authority. However, the SANDAG board is comprised of elected officials from around the county who are ostensibly elected to represent the citizens in their jurisdiction. These elected officials vote on land use matters specific to their jurisdiction. For example, the San Diego City Council voted to give land to Deco Bike Share so the company could place advertisements on public land and raise revenue to support their bike share operations. These elected officials, like Mayor Kevin Faulconer (or Councilmember Lorie Zapf) and Councilmember Todd Gloria are expected to carry out the will of their electorate who expect their electeds to vote on a plan that is a good use of public taxpayer dollars.

The current plan, scheduled for adoption today, is an update of the 2011 plan. The plan scheduled to be adopted today still has all the road projects from 2011. The transit projects from 2011 have been replaced with cheaper projects. In other words, if you thought hoping for an empty bus rack was a temporary problem, SANDAG plans to make this permanent.

While the plan will get adopted today with the vast majority of the board ignoring the overwhelming majority of public speakers who will urge them to vote against the plan, I know one local leader will listen to his constituents and oppose the plan, Councilmember David Alvarez. As he stated on twitter yesterday, "Waiting 35 years for progress in bike/transit/pedestrian infrastructure is not an option."

Thank you Councilmember Alvarez, for being a true leader.


News, Links, and Other Views

Below is a list of stories sent in from around the city, region and elsewhere. Hope you enjoy them. Don't be shy about sending in your stories to:

City of San Diego

  • The San Diego Community Newspaper Group did an interview with our former board member and community advocate, Nicole Burgess.
  • The advantage (for law enforcement) of people riding bikes and committing crimes is that they are easier to catch
  • Community Group Aims To Make Over San Diego’s Lincoln Park Intersection
  • Woman had meth in system when she hit cyclists and permanently injured Juan Carlos Vinolo, prosecutor says
  • No word on whether the pipeline replacement project in Hillcrest, that diverted traffic, has  resulted in Leo Wilson filing another lawsuit against the city.
  • Golden Hill Planning Group reps are very unhappy with the excellent improvements in Golden Hill.
  • Fellow rider, Javi was seriously injured after he was hit by driver near Balboa Park. Driver is said to be cooperating with law enforcement. Friends have set up an online fundraiser.
  • People walking the streets of San Diego are twice as likely to be injured in a crash than people in cars. They're 15 times more likely to be injured if they're riding a bike. Protected bike lanes and road diets can solve this problem.
  • Where do bikes in San Diego get stolen? U-T has a great visual analysis.
  • Animal Activist Gets Bike Back.

County of San Diego

  • Imperial Beach’s Eagle and Times profiles the city’s new Assistant City Manager, Steve Dush, who says he loves to ride his bike on the Bayshore Bikeway. An advocate’s friend in city hall is always a good thing.
  • A road diet in Carlbad’s’ notorious La Costa Avenue seems to be a welcome addition so far.
  • Drunk drivers have killed 11 people since May.
  • Chula Vista may implement a road diet on Broadway and businesses express doubt over proposed changes.
  • The Encinitas Advocate profiles Darius Degher who uses his bicycle for transportation as often as possible
  • Step aside bike haters of the bygone era, San Diego is ready and willing to take your place. Encinitas Planning Commissioner Dave Hutchinson has accused fellow Commissioner Brian Grover of doing his job in promoting Complete Streets and has asked Grover to resign. In Coronado, myopic residents have single handedly turned their city into a national laughing stock.
  • Chula Vista students take part in Safe Routes to Nature

State of California

  • Governor Brown signed SB 530 clarifying the rules for Pedal Powered Quadricyles, like San Diego's own Social Cycle. We sent in a letter of support so owner Laura Rovick could operate her pedal powered business in peace without meddling from our meddlesome City Attorney. Even the First Dog seemed pleased.
  • Los Angeles finally gets a bike share program.
  • Drivers Unaware California Bike Law Exists, Few Citations Given In Its First Year
  • A Los Angeles Plan to Reshape the Streetscape Sets Off Fears of Gridlock



  • Guess who has the most stressful commute? Hint: not anyone who walks or bikes.
  • Are cars parked 95% of the time?
  • How Taxis and Uber Might Be Worsening the Paratransit Problem
  • Large car free day in Paris is a success

Preventable Carnage

  • On Park(ing) Day, a driver crashed into parked cars in Banker’s HIll. There are downsides to curbside parking.
  • DUI Suspect Kills Pedestrian 1 Block From DUI Checkpoint
  • Mother Of Baby Who Died After Being Left In Car Overnight Gets 10-Year Sentence
  • Driver takes out tree, pole, lands on side in El Cajon.
  • DUI suspect crashes into police cruiser
  • A Southern California woman who was texting and chatting on her cellphone before she slammed her Toyota Prius into the back of an idling car on an Orange County freeway, killing the 23-year-old driver, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison. No word on whether law enforcement in Orange County intends to step up their efforts to prevent distracted driving
  • A young girl who was struck by a car in the 500 block of North Johnson Avenue in El Cajon died at the hospital.
  • Two injured in head-on crash in Lincoln Park
  • Child 7 Dies After Being Hit by Car While Playing
  • A 12-year-old child on a scooter was thrown 20-feet when he was hit by a car in the South Bay
  • DUI Suspect Crashes Van Into Home Shears Gas Line  Source
  • Pedestrian dies of hit-run injuries
  • SUV (speeds and) skids on wet road, plunges into swimming pool
  • A 59-year-old man walking near City Heights Saturday was seriously injured when a car hit him, sending him flying into the air, according to one witness.
  • A woman with a baby in the back seat of her SUV slammed into the back of a Santee dry cleaners
  • Woman arrested for DUI after hit and run in Pacific Beach
  • Drunk drivers get his car stuck on the Georgia Street bridge.
  • Teenage Driver Hits Injures Kids in San Marcos
  • Daughter Charged With DUI Vehicular Manslaughter in Crash That Killed Mother
  • Vehicle crashes into wall along home on Winnett Street near SR 94

SANDAG’s Gary Gallegos: “Transit is not going to work for every person in the region”

Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, the region's metropolitan planning agency.

“We are not going to put everybody on a bike, we are not going to take everybody out of their car, transit is not going to work for every person in the region.” - Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG, San Diego’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. January 8, 2014.

the SANDAG plan is to spend more than half the $204 billion on mass transit, adding five new Trolley lines, 32 new rapid bus lines and 275 miles of new bikeways, as well as 160 miles of freeway lanes intended to help transit and encourage carpools and van pools. The net effect would be to reduce county greenhouse gas emissions by considerably more than state targets.” - UT Editorial Board


I don’t know what sort of drugs the UT Editorial Board is consuming, because if they bothered to read SANDAG’s own analysis they would have seen that implementing the existing Regional Transportation Plan (scheduled for a SANDAG board vote on October 9th) in its current form is going to increase the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. Check out the below graphic for a visual, taken right from SANDAG’s own documentation

Screenshot from 2015-09-29 15:25:18
On the left, where we need to be. On the right, where SANDAG plans to take us.

SANDAG’s own analysis shows an increase in vehicle miles travelled between now and 2050, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis goes on to state that in order to meet the state goals of reducing the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, SANDAG needs to encourage “more compact development than a multiple dense cores scenario, further substantial increases in the cost of driving, and further substantial transit service improvements,“

This same document by SANDAG staff discusses induced demand, in that increasing roadway capacity induces driving (and thus more greenhouse gas emissions). The document also points out that congestion is good because it “may then lead to longer trips and a change in mode.” Between 2012 and 2050, SANDAG’s own analysis shows that they are planning to increase freeway capacity by an additional 1, 757 miles of freeways.

Screenshot from 2015-09-29 14:47:27

The implementation of the entire 2050 plan is divided into three phases summarized below in the table by expenditures (in millions)


Project Categories 2014-2020 2021-2035 2036-2050 Total
Transit $6,161 $27,756 $66,999 $100,916
Managed Lanes and Highway Improvements $4,070 $16,200 $37,041 $57,311
Local Streets and Roads $3,180 $8,573 $14857 $26,610
Debt Service $863 $3,834 $4,477 $9,174
Active Transportation/Systems Management/Demand Management $1,107 $3,459 $4,846 $9,412


To SANDAG’s credit, Active Transportation investments have been increased to $4.9 billion - no small amount. But if Uptown was any indication of how future projects will proceed, the future for walking and bicycling looks very bleak in that projects will continue to be implemented in a hodge podge manner, watered down over the smallest of whining over loss of curbside parking instead of implementing proven methods that actually connects communities and addresses the barriers to walking and bicycling and transit use in the region.

Within the 2050 RTP Update, SANDAG is proposing to leverage a little over $98 billion in local funds to receive $68 billion in state funds and $36 billion in federal funds. A cursory glance at the state and federal funds scheduled to come into the region seems to indicate that these funds can be used toward providing increased transportation choices like dedicated rail transit which can also increase bicycle ridership, but the board (our own elected officials) has - at Gallegos’ behest - continued to prioritize freeways over transit and active transportation projects.

Screenshot from 2015-09-29 15:56:16
Source: SANDAG

I wanted to take a cursory look at the transit investments however. Out of the $100.9 billion devoted to transit, $17 billion is allocated toward the California High Speed Rail that wouldn’t be in operation until the later part of the plan’s implementation. Further more, $39 billion is for transit operations and given the region’s high farebox recovery rates, we have proof that transit pays for itself more than highway projects do. In the first phase of the plan’s implementation (2014-2020), $2.1 billion (out of the total $15.4 billion) is being spent on transit: the Mid-Coast Trolley and double tracking the Coaster. The rest of the money is being spent on Rapid Buses and a Airport Shuttle that sounds like it was designed by individuals who haven’t experienced airport transit systems in nearly every major city in the country.

To summarize, SANDAG’s own plan won’t meet the governor’s order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SANDAG continues to build freeways and increase road capacity for drivers while failing to push for either a means to pay for driving use or provide an alternative that would induce San Diegans to shift travel modes.

So what is the SANDAG board going to adopt next week? More of this:

image via

and less of this:

image via

Change to a more sustainable, healthier future is well within San Diego’s reach. Changing behaviour by redesigning our region’s transportation networks for the long term sustainability is possible. It’s just too bad our elected leaders aren’t willing to be leaders.

Transforming Hillcrest: A Video Explanation of the Uptown Bike Corridor

One of BikeSD's members and a local owner of several UPS stores, Dennis Stein, was having trouble understanding the full picture of what happened around the SANDAG vote to kill protected bike lanes on University Avenue this past June. So he decided to make a short video about the entire project's history and you can view that video here (embedded below):

The Uptown Bike Project was the first project that was part of the Early Action Plan within SANDAG's Regional Transportation Plan.The total funding allocated to the project was $40 million. Per SANDAG, the "project’s 12 miles of on-street bikeways are within the City of San Diego’s urban core communities of Uptown (Five Points, Mission Hills, Hillcrest, and Bankers Hill neighborhoods), Old Town, Mission Valley, Downtown, North Park, and Balboa Park".

The goals of the Uptown Bike Project were:

1.Mobility: Increase choices; connect communities
2.Experience: Improve travel safety for everyone, and create an exceptional biking experience
3.Community: Build on and support related community initiatives
4.Placemaking: Enhance community identity and public spaces
5.Economic Development: Improve public infrastructure and strengthen opportunities for community and business development

I've created a visual to show you the five corridors below. The red highlighted segments visually show the elevation one must climb to get up to the Central Mesa. This elevation is a challenge for most people. As you can see, most of the corridors already have painted bike lanes along with low vehicle traffic counts, with University Avenue being a glaring exception. University Avenue is the most deadly corridor as identified by Circulate San Diego's analysis for Vision Zero, a plan to eliminate all serious injuries and traffic fatalities within a decade in the city of San Diego.

After the Uptown Corridor is implemented (construction is scheduled to begin in 2017), University Avenue will get three blocks worth of protected bike lanes which will thus fail the goals identified by SANDAG above: including connecting communities and improve safety for everyone.

Hillcrest Business Association has retained their lobbyist to fight against possible protected bike lane implementation on 4th and 5th Avenue. The current painted buffered bike lanes is already being sued by former Uptown Planners head, Leo Wilson.
Screenshot from 2015-09-23 14:25:37

As the Stein's video alludes above, Level of Service, or the practice of prioritizing vehicle traffic throughput to the exclusion and detriment of all other travel modes killed the Uptown Bikeway Corridor on University Avenue. If you recall, our own Planning Commission identified a need to deprioritize Level of Service. And given the approximately 13% of Uptown residents who live without a vehicle (let alone the thousands that get by with one vehicle or want to live without a vehicle), their own voices are not being heard or acknowledged in this public process of where and how projects get funded and implemented.

Here is another point to chew on: below is a visual of the car-free residents in Uptown taken from the Census. The source is via Better Institutions. You can view the entire country's car-free status here.

Screenshot from 2015-09-23 15:42:03


In his email to all the people he spoke with about the video, Stein wrote the following:

A few months ago I was looking for an interesting project to make a video about to practice my video making skills.  The Uptown Bikeways project keep popping up.  In mid-July started interviewing people who had been involved in the process.
My goal from the beginning was to tell a balanced, objective story.  (If I didn't do this, please let me know.)  I was concerned that I might make a video skewed in favor of the bike community since a lot of them are my friends.  However, I also relate to the business owners as I own a retail business.
I was surprised as I started getting into the interviews how the conflict between the bike community and the business community was real in its early stages, but that there was a lot of agreement between both groups later on over Transform Hillcrest.  I was also surprised at how Todd Gloria, who both represents Hillcrest and is the chairman of the SANDAG transpiration committee, didn't get more involved in April and May to advocate for the Transform Hillcrest plan that the community was rallying around.  The story turned from one pitting bike advocates against businesses to one pitting the community against city and SANDAG leadership.  SANDAG is obliged to do what the transportation committee directs it to, so that mean Gary Gallegos did not kill Transform Hillcrest, but that it was the board of the transportation committee led by Todd Gloria.  I felt that the results of this whole process was that Hillcrest missed out on a huge opportunity.
(By the way, these jabs at Todd are specific to this issue.  From what I've seen, he's a very effective, reasonable, and hard working politician.  My understanding of this issue just leads me to a different conclusion than him on it.  I might make a pro-Todd Gloria video someday too about a different topic.)
My hope in releasing this video is that it will revive the conversation about what we want from our political leaders and about how we interact with them and the organizations they lead (SANDAG, City of SD).  I hope the video will put pressure on all parties to act in a way that is best for the community.
My hope is also to correct any errors that may be in this video.  Is there something big in it that you see in it that is incorrect or mis-leading?  Is there something glaringly missing from the video?  If we catch it quickly, I can do another edit before too many people see it.  (It takes hours to upload the video, so unless the change is very important, I may not make it.)  I'll probably also make some other versions of this video, like a trailer and a sub-5 minute version.
Send me any questions or comments you may have about the video.  It's been a fun project and I'm not looking for the next video to work on.  I've got some ideas and it will probably not have to do with a political issue next time!

Does the watering down of the project set a bad precedence for future bike projects around the region? Time will tell. Did the project destroy public trust in the process? Based on the emails and conversations I've had with our supporters since June, I can say: absolutely. Can you change things? Yes. The Hillcrest Business Association has vacancies on their board and a District 3 election is scheduled to happen in November 2016. You can play a role in changing institutions stuck on maintaining the status quo, and influencing future elections. More will be written about this in the upcoming months.